The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Police Invade “Liberated Zone,” Leading To Injuries And Arrests



UW-Madison administrators claim tents and sleeping equipment were the target of an early-morning police raid of a student protest, a clash that resulted in 34 arrests alongside injuries to all parties. (Chali Pittman / WORT News) 

Officers from a variety of state and local departments – including UW-Madison Police, the Madison Police Department, the Dane County Sheriff, and the State Patrol – marched onto the encampment at Library Mall early Wednesday morning just after 7am. 

That ended what has so far been a peaceful demonstration in the so-called “Liberated Zone,” where demonstrators have been distributing food, playing music, disseminating information, and of course- much to the chagrin of UW Madison administration- camping out. Protestors have a variety of demands that range from cutting UW-Madison ties with Israeli institutions to disclosing UW Foundation investments.

“We were sitting. We weren’t doing anything wrong, we weren’t blocking anything, we weren’t causing any disruptions. We were peaceful,” says demonstrator Mia Kurzer.

“And the police just came in here with riot gear and they started just going at the crowd. And people got hurt, people got arrested for just being in a public space, being on public property.”

Over the next two hours, police would arrest 34 people, ranging from students to faculty to community members. Most were released with no citations issued, according to a statement from UW-Madison police.

Over the two-hour span, police removed dozens of tents, the focal point of contention for UW-Madison administration. As protestors defended the last two tents – which would remain on the green – police officers filed off Library Mall and dissolved into nearby campus buildings. 

One demonstrator, who spoke to WORT but declined to be recorded or give their name, said they were processed in the basement of Memorial Union Theater. They said they were told not to return to Library Mall today, or else they would face arrest. 

UW Gender and Women’s Studies Professor Sami Schalk was one of several people today to be assaulted and detained, with injuries requiring a hospital visit. Online video footage shows State Patrol officers choking her.

Community and Environmental Sociology Professor Samer Alatout was also injured and detained. He told WORT the details of his experience just minutes after the fact.

But not all faculty supporting the encampment were arrested. Lynda Barry, Professor in UW-Madison’s Art Department, arrived on Library Mall just as police were leaving the scene, but stayed on site to support her students. 

“One of my students – one of my former students – got hit by one of the shields and had a little laceration on her hand. And that made me start shaking, you know, it’s one thing when you watch this stuff on T.V. It’s another thing when it’s your own students being harmed. So that was very upsetting,” she told WORT today. 

Four people were booked into the Dane County Jail. Two demonstrators have been charged with battery to a police officer, one demonstrator with battery to a police officer and resisting arrest, and another demonstrator charged with attempting to disarm a police officer, resisting arrest, and attempted escape. 

Three deputies from Dane County were injured, according to a statement. And a State Trooper was injured when a protester allegedly struck their head with a skateboard.

Over the past few days, UW Madison administrators, led by Chancellor Mnookin, have maintained that they support free expression and peaceful protest.  In a statement released today, UW administration said repeatedly demonstrators were warned of consequences before police encroached. And they pointed to the “illegal activity” of tents overnight, echoing a repeated point that section of state law governing UW campuses explicitly bans “the pitching of tents or the overnight use of sleeping bags.”

Another part of the statement reads, “it is a long-standing element of the civil disobedience tradition to respect the laws we share and to accept that there are consequences for violating them.” 

Students don’t agree, and say UW-Madison is picking and choosing when to enforce that law.

“Political speech is allowed by the first amendment – but the university only cracks down on it depending on its content,” one anonymous demonstrator tells WORT this afternoon. 

Today’s crackdown comes after Governor Evers warned yesterday that the student encampments at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee have to end at some point – voluntarily or not, reports WDJT-TV

Kurzer tells WORT today that she canvassed for Evers during his campaign, but thinks it’s “a little disappointing to see people in power take the side of the people who are causing violence to our students.”

Meanwhile this morning, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos applauded the crackdown, and thanked Chancellor Mnooken for enforcing campus policies and “standing up to the unruly mob.” 

In a separate tweet, Vos praised free speech and the right to protest – but said camping out on state property didn’t qualify as free speech. 

Police retreated to other campus buildings just after 9am.  Demonstrators followed, heckling officers, hurling insults, and cheering at their departure.

 At the encampment, two tents remained standing. But by 11 a.m., more tents had already sprung up – most of them donations from supporters. And as of Tuesday evening, the Liberated Zone had returned to largely its previous state over the past two days. 

 “We are here and committed to staying here in solidarity with Gaza, in solidarity with student protesters all across the country. And we won’t leave until the chancellor meets our demands.”

The solidarity encampment at UW-Milwaukee has seen a limited police presence and remains untouched as of this afternoon.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *